Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” is a model story characterised by a twist right at the end, though in addition to that its thematic implications for feminism and self-fulfilment – especially in the context of the nineteenth century – have been examined academically in greater detail. The plot centres around Louise Mallard and starts with her knowing about the death of her travelling husband, Brently Mallard, which leads her subsequently to break down and to isolate herself. The difference of her reaction, vis-à-vis other women of her time who may have received the same news, is emphasised before the general experience of women is examined: “She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralysed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her”.
Mallard is confronted with something more metaphysical next, and it would appear that this – coupled with the repetition of “free, free, free” as well as her eventual realisation that in the years to come “she would live for herself” – has dominated most of the discourse: “There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the colour that filled the air”. While experiencing the tussle between this freedom and her love for her deceased husband, different interpretations include notions of love, romance, and marriage, the role of women in relationships and their emotions, and the one’s sense of self in these configurations.
And as the story over quickly to its climax and conclusion, Mallard declares and asserts the freedom of her body and soul, and “The Story of an Hour” indicates the approximate length of the two major developments in the beginning and at the end. As the action rises, the protagonist seems to have reconciled much of the internal tension that she had been tussling with: “She arose at length and opened the door to her sister’s importunities. There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory. She clasped her sister’s waist, and together they descended the stairs. Richards stood waiting for them at the bottom”. With the twist, however, that reconciliation appears elusive, and the reader is left to ponder the strange range of sentiments evoked.